Denton — Plastic wrap, Hula-Hoops, and Korean rap found a way into Denton’s PointBank Black Box Theater on Saturday night. This seemingly odd combination turned out to be a stunning collection of dance in all varieties. Partnered with the Artists Enclave of Denton County, the Texas Woman’s University Department of Dance showcased several experimental pieces in Day of the Dance.
Walking into the theater, the show had already begun—three dancers in lime green leotards covered in plastic wrap twitched around the stage as patrons entered the building. Choreographed by Martheya Nygaard, this excerpt of Distort welcomed viewers into a realm of confusion, intensity, and the bizarre. While audience members found their seats, each dancer seemed to be deeply entranced in their own world. One mover slouched against a wall and examined a peephole of light with her fingers, legs, toes, and eyes. Another dancer sat in the middle of the floor, kicking and poking repeatedly as she tried to tear free from the wrap around her. Their animalistic crouches, inverted feet, and zombie-like focus created a tone of discomfort and curiosity. At one point the three separate movers focused in on a unison phrase that brought cohesion to the strangeness of their crooked fingers and tilted heads while also giving the audience members a single point of focus.
Breaking from the eerie atmosphere of the opening piece, performer and choreographer Chely Jones casually walked center stage for I just look white. Jaden Smith’s “Icon” played while she relaxed into her surroundings and grounded herself into the floor. A softer approach to the hip-hop style, her arms bounced around loosely as her feet lightly stepped in quick patterns. Seemingly timid at first, she eased into the beat with more frequent smiles and eye contact with audience members until “Gucci Gang Remix” by Joyner Lucas dropped over the speakers. This hard-hitting accompaniment prompted a shift in Jones’ demeanor and her steps became increasingly aggressive. Suddenly her breezy arms from the first section transformed into sharp, angular lines and forceful punches—causing a series of encouraging screams from the viewers.
Stillness then descended upon the stage when two dancers in plain, orange dresses walked from the corner. Choreographed by Reyna Mondragon, Helen immediately commanded a more serious tone. Working closely with the musical score “Jade (old woman song)” from Meredith Monk, the duet captured a sense of fall and recovery. Monk’s abrupt shrieks and exclamations caused the dancers to collapse, reach for help (whether from the ground, air, or their partner) and pull themselves up to repeat the cycle once more. Tension extended through their fingertips, and their jutted elbows created a strained ambience. Void of facial emotion, the dancers dropped and rose out of the floor covering the entire stage with crazed, yet purposeful intent. Even the darkness of the lights fading could not stop their frenzied reaches.
In the most surprising work of the evening, performer and choreographer Tara Baker presented ˈsərkəl, accompanied by her partner: a Hula-Hoop. This beautifully intimate piece went by all too fast. Captivating from entrance to exit, Baker swirled and circled around herself, the stage, and her hoop in luxuriously intricate patterns. The hoop did not simply exist as a prop, but rather acted as her duet partner as it wove around her seamlessly. Even in moments of detachment, Baker never lost track of this important extension of her own body by continuing to stretch her limbs beyond her limits. In constant movement, she transitioned from high to low levels as a way to disconnect and reconnect with her hoop—always returning.
To complete the night, 밤 헤는 별: A star counting the night lit up the stage with a burst of energy from five dancers in blue sweatshirts and black pants. Choreographed by Hyun Jung (Jenna) Chang, it was the largest group of the evening. Easing into flowing, gooey pulses the dancers quickly shifted into harder hitting jabs upward and away from the body. Their unison movement combined with their powerful dynamics invigorated the space. While the solo break dancing section near the end could have used a bit more resolution, the overall upbeat, playful piece was a fantastic end to the night.